July 10, 2020

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Tennis one year ago: Canadians in Lyon

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There won’t be much tennis for the foreseeable future – at least not the top-level competitive tennis we know.

So with the meat of the season upon us – no Roland Garros, no grass-court season – Open Court is going to look back at where we were a year ago, and pull out photos and video from a busy summer of covering tennis.

First up: the ATP Tour event in Lyon, which took place the week before Roland Garros and featured a couple of Canadian kids in the mix.

With the French Open qualifying going at the same time, the Paris-Lyon commute was done a few times that week. The high-speed TGV train is a spectacular way to travel. And the Lyon tournament is absolutely charming – an old-school throwback that was very well attended.

Here’s what the back and forth looked like.

Top-class field in RG final tuneup

There were some terrific players in the Lyon field, including Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Taylor Fritz, the Canadians and more. And a lot of enthousiastic fans.

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov, early rounds

First up for Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime, after a first-round bye, was a tough opener against Australia’s John Millman.

After a tough, two-set win, Auger-Aliassime went on to face American Steve Johnson, and pulled it out in three..

Meanwhile, his friend Denis Shapovalov engineered a terrific comeback over French lefty Ugo Humbert, before facing the mercurial Benoit Paire in the quarterfinals.

It came right down to the wire.

Shapovalov had some interesting things to say afterwards. He certainly had his chances. And with his friend Auger-Aliassime still alive in Lyon, their rankings were getting closer and closer. He freely admitted he felt his presence right behind him.

But that’s a good thing.

Comeback vs. Basilashvili

In the semifinals, Auger-Aliassime faced Nikoloz Basilashvili, who was playing the best tennis of his career and was ranked higher, at No. 18.

Auger-Aliassime pulled it out – 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4. But it came at a price. He suffered an adductor injury, despite being able to complete the semifinal match.

Paire vs. FAA in a tough final

The Paire fans were out in full force for the final.

Auger-Aliassime did everything he could to prepare for his second career ATP Tour final. And his karma in Lyon was outstanding, having won there at the Challenger level.

But it wasn’t enough; he did play, but clearly was hampered by the leg. His diminished physical status was something Paire took pains to point out during the trophy ceremony (as well as what a great guy he thinks this young Canadian is).

It was a good week for all of them. They didn’t know what was in store for them in Paris – not so good.